How's your FICO Score?

Since we live in an automated, it's probably not that surprising that your ability to repay virtually any loan boils down to one number. The years of paying your various bills: your mortgage, vehicle payments, and credit card bills can be analyzed, sliced, diced, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.

Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, the three major credit reporting agencies, each have a proprietary formula for building your credit score. The original FICO score was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. While Experian still calls its score "FICO", TransUnion calls its score "Beacon" and Equifax uses "Empirica." While the formulas vary, the differences aren't huge; they all use the following factors in building your score:

  • Credit History - How long have you had credit?
  • History of Payments - Do you have a history of late payments?
  • Your Credit Card Balances - How many credit card accounts do you have, and how much do you owe on them?
  • Requests for Credit - How many times have lenders pulled your credit for the purpose of lending you money?

These factors are weighted differently depending on which formula the agency uses. Each formula produces a single number which varies slightly by agency. Credit scores can be as low as 300 and as high as 800. Higher scores are better. Most home buyers these days have a score above 620.

FICO makes a huge difference in interest rates

Did you know? FICO scores affect more than your ability to get a loan. They also affect your interest rate. Higher scores indicate you are probably a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.

Improving your score

What can you do to improve your FICO score? Very little in the short term. Despite what you hear from "credit repair" companies, the FICO score is built on your lifetime credit history, so you can't turn it around right away. You must, of course, remove any incorrect data on your credit report; this is really the only way to quickly improve your credit score.

Getting your credit score

Before you can improve your FICO score, you have to obtain your score and ensure that the reports from each agency are correct. Fair Isaac has created a web site (www.myFICO.com) that lets you do just that. For a reasonable fee, you can get your FICO score from all three reporting agencies, along with your credit report. Also available are information and tools that can help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.

You can get a free credit report every year from the three major credit reporting agencies by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports do not include a free credit score, but it's very inexpensive to get one at the same time.

Armed with this information, you will be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the right mortgage for you.

Want to know more about your FICO score? Give us a call at (203) 729-6681.

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